Top UN officials in Sudan call for more political support in year ahead


The most senior United Nations officials in Sudan told the Security Council today that the international community must take a more active role in promoting democracy after the recent national elections, particularly ahead of next year’s referendum on possible southern secession, and also focus on stabilizing the increasingly violent Darfur region.

“Sudan needs to be encouraged and assisted to expand the democratic space opened by the recent elections and establish a broad-based system of national governance that leads to a more equitable society and durable peace,” Haile Menkerios, head of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), told the 15-member UN body.

“The international community must not only encourage and urge the parties to stay the course to ensure the timely conclusion of the CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] implementation and continue peace and mutual benefit, but also to assist,” he added.

The planned referendum on self-determination in the south is meant to be the final phase of the 2005 CPA, which ended a two-decade-long civil war in the African country.

Mr. Menkerios said that the National Congress Party (NCP) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) – both signatories to the CPA – have separately informed UNMIS that they “desire UN engagement at a much greater level” than in April to help ensure a fair vote, but have yet to provide Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with detailed requests.

Mr. Menkerios cautioned that with the UN is ready to extend technical and logistical support to the local referendum bodies, “parties need to be encourages, indeed urged, to push on with the necessary preparations without further delay.”

Formal negotiations between the parties are scheduled to start on 21 June in Ethiopia, with the assistance of the African Union (AU).

Also speaking to the Security Council, the head of the joint African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), Ibrahim Gambari, briefed the body on the upsurge in violence in Darfur where 447 people were killed in May alone.

“The fighting between the two belligerent parties is still continuing, and the security situation in parts of Darfur remains tense and volatile,” Mr. Gambari said, detailing the recent “serious escalation” of hostilities between the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Government forces.

“The military confrontations may continue for some time unless urgent efforts at ensuring a ceasefire are made by the international community,” Mr. Gambari warned.

UNAMID peacekeepers in Darfur, whose mandate is focused on protection of civilians, is boosting its military and police patrols among camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs). The recent fighting has caused up to 50,000 people to flee.

The blue helmets are also working with Government officials to open up more roads to increase access for the humanitarian community.

In the days before today’s briefing, Mr. Gambari met with Sudanese Vice President Ali Osman Mohammed Taha in Khartoum. He said the Government had agreed to instruct its agencies to allow greater aid access, and a ban on helicopter flights was lifted on 13 June.

The Security Council also heard from the Joint AU-UN Chief Mediator for Darfur Djibril Bassolé, who said a major meeting with civil society will be held in the first two weeks of July, and from the Chairperson of the AU Panel on Darfur (AUPD) Thabo Mbeki.

Source: UN Daily News